On June 15, former National Security Adviser John Bolton sat down for an interview with ABC’s Martha Raddatz to promote his new “tell all” book, expected to rip the bark off the Trump White House. ABC is airing it Sunday during prime time….just like they aired a prime time interview in 2018 with former FBI director James Comey to promote his anti-Trump “tell all” book.
In 2007, Bolton wrote a book about his experience in government. No major network came calling for a prime time special. He wasn’t useful to them back then.
Now try to remember ABC offering a prime time special to an Obama insider who wrote a rip-roaring “tell-all” book. You’ll have a tough time. Because most publishers are liberals, and aren’t going to roll out the red carpet for that kind of book….even if the author is a liberal. So there was no insider “tell-all” for ABC to promote.
Instead, ABC scheduled a prime time special to promote an Obama book…by Michelle Obama. They turned on the cotton candy machine for “star student” Michelle and Becoming, her uber-selling autobiography, in 2018. There’s a reason the publishers gave the Obamas and their book agents tens of millions of dollars, and ABC’s promotion was one of them.
The Disney-owned network aired a prime time book special for Hillary Clinton and her State Department memoir Hard Choices in 2014. ABC’s legendary softball specialist Barbara Walters offered a prime time Hillary special for the previous memoir Living History in 2003. Walters asked Hillary if she was a “saint.”
To be fair, there were former Obama officials who came out with memoirs that may have said something negative about Obama…and they were attacked for it.
In 2014, Robert Gates, Obama's first Secretary of Defense, was selling a book. As he sat in NBC’s studio wearing a neck brace, Today co-host Matt Lauer accused him of endangering the troops for having the audacity to criticize the sitting commander-in-chief: “[A]t a time when some 40,000 U.S. troops are in harm's way, do you think that by calling him into question at this stage it is either dangerous or dishonorable?"
Now look back and imagine being called “dishonorable” by Matt Lauer.
In 2013, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, fired by President Obama over critical comments from his staff in a Rolling Stone article, issued his memoirs, and did a round of TV interviews. The first one, with CBS Pentagon correspondent David Martin, mostly skipped Obama, except for McChrystal to express pain over his apparent “disloyalty” with Rolling Stone. There wasn’t any attack on Obama. The general did promote his book on a special edition of Hannity in prime time, and the Fox host talked through what happened with Obama, but there was no trashing of the president.
This same pattern emerged last September with Gen. James Mattis. CBS promoted his book in two interviews, but completely ignored his strong criticisms of Obama. He even called some of his choices “catastrophic.”
Instead, CBS This Morning co-host Anthony Mason asked about Trump: “What do you think the President got wrong about Syria?” Guest host Maria Elena Salinas pushed about his resignation: “Was it your decision to leave, or were you fired, or were you pushed into resigning or pressured into resigning?”
There’s no need to pre-judge what John Bolton will say to ABC. But we can judge a long history of “tell all” imbalance, from the publishing houses to the TV studios. Republicans are mercilessly dissected. Democrats are carefully protected.